In rural areas particularly, the cost of drawing from the nearest power grid far exceeds the cost of solar panel power, and the gap is increasing fast. And more and more many households in all sorts of areas – rural, suburban, and urban alike – are turning to home solar panel system as a source of backup power in case of a blackout or other emergency.
The cost of solar panel power per kilowatt hour is admittedly not the absolute cheapest of renewable energies – at around $0.55 per kWh as compared with $0.05 for wind or $0.06 for micro-hydroelectric, for example – but it’s still markedly cheaper than paying the power company (especially with rate increases as much as 10% per year), providing of course – and here’s the key: that you do it right.
If you’re considering installing solar power in your home, then first things first: keep in mind that if you’re planning for solar power to provide for all your home’s energy needs, the cost of solar panel may take a significant up-front investment.
With the cost of solar panel alone at $275-$600 for each one, and each solar panel providing somewhere between 50 and 200 watts of power per day (depending on a variety of factors) it’s not always cost-effective to plan to power your entire home exclusively with a home solar panel system.
That said, you can substantially reduce your home energy costs and even put some money back into your pocket by supplementing your existing power sources with a home solar panel.
To figure out the cost of solar panel systems to provide supplemental power to your home, it helps to perform an energy audit of your home, or – put plainly – an assessment of how much power you’d like your solar panel system to generate for you each day. To do this, take a look at the wattage of each of the electrical items that you might run in your home on any given day – microwave, TV, light bulbs, vacuum, refrigerator, fans, A/C, computer, etc., and add it all together.
This can be a very revealing process, especially if you’ve never done it before, and will surely help you to get a clearer idea of which items use the least power and which ones are your biggest energy drainers, and therefore a more accurate clue about your ultimate cost of solar power.
Once you feel you’ve compiled a reasonable list of electrical items you’d like to power with solar energy each day, calculate the cumulative wattage you’d use for all of them over a period of 24 hours. Now you can figure out how many solar panels, and thus the estimated cost of solar panel, you’ll need.
Now if you currently live in a home that is not connected to any power grid, and you’re trying to figure out the cost effectiveness of your energy options, then consider what we’ll call “the half-mile rule”. If the power company has to install more than a half-mile of equipment to get power out to your home, then the cost of solar panel power (or wind or hydro, for that matter) is cheaper straightaway.
If it’s less than a half-mile for them to bring the power out to you, however, then it may be worth getting on the grid. Of course, again, after a few years of rate hikes you may wish you’d paid that cost of solar panel system after all. If, however, you do decide to connect to the power grid, remember that you can still install a smaller solar panel system anyway, one to act as a backup and provide you with supplemental energy. And that cost of solar panel system, obviously, will be much less.
In addition to the cost benefits of solar usage, you also benefit from a cleaner environment (not to mention a cleaner conscience). In fact, the cost of not using solar power – increased pollution and depletion of natural resources – is far greater than any up front cost of solar panel systems.
Finally, the cost of solar panel systems can be inordinately outweighed, as well, by two ways in which it could put money back into your pocket. You can sell to the local power company the excess power your home solar panel generates, if you’re fortunate enough to have any (and in some states, it’s actually required). And for a limited time, anyone in the United States can receive a tax credit on the cost of solar panel systems you install in your home. See the IRS for details.